I am ready to make a purchase of an 18" (scale length) mandola or a 23" (s. l.) tenor guitar. I play a viola, somewhat poorly at present but I'm learning, and find the finger stretch to be just about what I can manage comfortably. It is a 16" (body measurement) Baroque viola. The string length, nut to bridge, is 14 1/2".
To those who know about such things, or to those who have smaller hands and/or finger reach, or perhaps another violist, would I be out of my league buying either of the above mentioned instruments? I can't afford to make a mistake on this purchase, monetarily. Also it is a present to myself for my early June 68th birthday. Yeah, an old fart but a quite healthy old fart so I'll probably be around long enough to actually learn a mand-whatever.
Will I be reduced to mandolin only (not the end of the world of course), or perhaps a 5-string mandolin would have a shorter reach or am I thinking wrong about the whole thing and just lack experience in actual playing anything from a mandolin to a mandocello? I intend to be a finger-picker, if that makes a difference.
Any help and/or advice will be very welcome.